An awkward exploration of contemporary multiculturalism.

READ REVIEW

SMELLS LIKE STARS

Odhiambo's (The Reverend's Apprentice, 2008) new novel explores life in a vaguely located Canadian resort town on the Pacific coast called Ogweyo Cove.

A German-Canadian journalist named Kerstin Ostheim is preparing to marry P.J. Banner, a photographer who is torn between the worlds of his white father and his Indigenous mother. Meanwhile, Kerstin's trans daughter, Schuld, struggles with society's prejudice against her identity. She has two comforts—her art and her boyfriend, Woloff, a Kenyan Olympic athlete who is trying to regain his confidence after his career has come to a premature end. Further afield, Kerstin's father is running for another term as governor (of what, we are never told), while P.J.'s father succumbs to health problems triggered by his stressful business dealings. This novel is told in a clumsy present tense, with prose that sometimes borders on nonsensical ("Sirens bray down wind between the present and future perfect, and out of place in the sensible order of things they hate for real"). Readers may detect a faint plot regarding a spate of mysterious horse killings that Kerstin and P.J. decide to investigate, but it is perfunctory at best; the novel never seems very interested in solving that mystery. Mostly, Odhiambo cycles between characters, presenting episodes from their pasts while neglecting to investigate how these episodes inform the complexity of their relationships in the present. Despite the present tense, few events feel urgent or weighty, so that most of the narrative proceeds in an abstracted haze. When Woloff and Schuld are assailed in a supermarket by an angry man, for instance, the story seems to be building toward some kind of crisis, but it's a false alarm; the happy couple merely sidesteps the aggressor and goes back to Woloff's house to "get lit." The same sense of abstraction plagues the setting: Place names and cultural references are maddeningly unspecific, making it difficult for readers to feel absorbed in the story. This novel wants to wrestle with heavy issues of identity, history, and the legacy of European colonialism, but its vague setting, ill-defined cultural references, and psychologically flat characters render these insights flimsy.

An awkward exploration of contemporary multiculturalism.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77166-423-3

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Bookthug

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more